Wild uncultivated edible plants of India

Part  7
(……after part 6)

Oxalis corniculata L.
Family: Oxalidaceae

Commonly called as creeping wood sorrel, the plant with the clover-shaped leaves stays closer to the ground and is a popular green in the kitchens of India. The leaves are charged with in vitamin C, oxalic acid, protein and lipid, minerals and antioxidants, can be used as a supplementary diet in emergency. The species has many weedy characteristics namely, self-pollination, abundant seed production, and adaptability that render them to grow rapidly in different climatic conditions.  However, more than its adaptive traits, the widely appreciated culinary derivatives accelerated the deliberate spread of the species.  In the southern parts of India, not only the tribals but even the remote village folks cook the leaves with red gram and eat it with cooked rice. Presumably, the acidic taste has led its acceptance in preparing chutneys (crushed leaves mixed with spicy ingredients) in various cultural geographic regions of India, e.g., in Kerala, the leaves are ground with bird eye chilies (Kanthari) and used as a chutney. Chutney and the fried forms are also quite popular in eastern states of Odisha, Bihar, and West Bengal. Furthermore, the tribes of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (Gonds and Sahariya) also make use of the leaves in chutneys. On the other hand, in Uttar Pradesh, crushed leaves are mixed with curd for eating purposes. The high vitamin C content made it popular among the sailors. Many herbal teas and concoctions are now available online.

Oxalis Combine


Parkia timoriana
(DC.) Merr.

Family: Leguminosae

A tree legume which is quite common in the east and northeast of India especially in the contiguous Assam – Manipur region. The tree is a heavy producer of pods and can bear up to 500-1500 pods (90-260 kg / plant) depending upon the age and growing condition. The episode of fruiting and pod holding begins with the flowering in mid-August. It continues till mid-October when fresh pods are harvested. The beans are harvested along with stalks for better storage life. A single brunch may hold 8-30 pods and each pod contains 12-18 seeds. A tree can produce more than 15,000 pods, a real hefty amount, in a season!  As usual in a mega-diverse country like India, it is known by different vernacular names: Sapota in Hindi, Shivalingada mara in Kannada, Unkampinching in Marathi, Khorial in the Assamese. It is also popular in Manipur as Yongchak which is a traditionally valued plant. Both flower and pods are eaten as vegetables, in preparation of Singju, a typical Manipuri salad. They may be mixed with fish and dashed in preparation of local delicacy Iromba. For this reason, perhaps, four to five pods sell for a sizable amount in Manipuri markets. Understandably, wealthy families or those with agricultural background gift Yongchak to their daughters during weddings, so that she gets regular income from the tree once it blooms. In other parts, the tender beans are cooked with fish and eaten with rice. Flowers, tender pods, and seeds are also edible and are a better source of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals compared to other legumes. It is packed with of vitamin C, minerals like Magnesium, Zinc, and Calcium in addition to its rich protein content.

Parkia Combine

Passiflora foetida

Family: Passifloraceae

A wild woody and perennial vine that bears delicious fruits in purple or in yellow though moderately cultivated in parts of India where it was perhaps introduced from the distant land of South America. Gradually, it became naturalized in and around south and southeast Asia growing wild as well as cultivated. Owing to its distinct taste, it has become common in many of the rural and urban areas of India, eaten raw or made into juice or smoothies or other exotic thirst-quenchers with added vitamin-rich ingredients. In the Nilgiris and also in Northern India, people have enjoyed its good harvest while it went wild at other places. Recipes are diverse as one travels across India. The rural women of Kerala and Tamil Nadu make chutney from passion fruit pulp along with shallots, coconut, chilies, ginger, and curry leaves to accompany rice, idli, or roti. In Telangana and Tamil Nadu, fruit juice is popular among rural people. In the frontier provinces of the north-east region, mostly juicy extract in different enticing forms are available in cool colors and taste, concentrate, ice cream, squash, confectionery, or blended its juice with other fruits etc. The food value of the fruit is high as it is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), and iron. Realizing the economic potential, the plant has been commercially exploited in places in northeast, especially in Manipur, and the fruit is also sold online as fresh pieces and as preserved purees.

Passiflora Combine

Solanum nigrum

Family – Solanaceae

The magic berry belongs to the family of tomatoes, potatoes, and chilies, i.e., to Solanaceae. The plant is a shrub with appreciable antioxidant and vitamin levels; especially the leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals. Though unripe fruits contain ‘solanine’ and preferred to get matured before use, nutritional analysis reported a high protein, lipid, and crude fiber content along with vitamins (vitamin C, riboflavin, and thiamine) in fruits. It is widely known as ‘Makoi’ in the north of India as especially in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh. In Kashmir, leaves are stir-fried in oil to prepare Kainkothi fry. In Gujarat and Rajasthan both leaves and fruits are popular food among the rural folks. At the opposite end of the country, it is often used with tamarind, coconut, and chili powder along with other regular spicy ingredients, especially by the Tamil brahmin community; where it is called Manathakkali or Marthangali. Moreover, in Tamil Nadu, the unripe fruits of this black berry can be seen spread on palm leaf mats for drying. They are treated with buttermilk and salt, fermented and dried under the sun. This dried ‘Vattal’ (chips) is an export item. In the developed countries, its use as the edible species is under-explored though sparingly welcomed for infusing diversity to the cuisines.

Solanum Combine


Wild uncultivated edible plants of India

Part  6
(……after part 5)

Monochoria hastata (L.) Solms
Family: Pontederiaceae

This aquatic plant is a common weed of the rice fields of India. It is usually seen in shallow waters, erect, and occasionally creeping, with floating leaves and rhizomatous stem. It is only recently that the edibile and the nutritional value of leaves and flowers of this plant are recognized among nutrition enthusiastic. Flowers, leaves and rhizomes are rich in mineral content and are used as alternative green vegetables by rural populations. In Odisha, young inflorescence has also been accepted as food. In Assam, it is called as Bhaat Mateka. The Tai ahom tribes of upper Assam cook it with pork, chicken and fish. It can be used as a vegetable and stir fried with potatoes, green chillies, garlic onion and ginger. The young shoot is also acceptable as food among the Dimasa tribe of the Barak valley of Assam.  The ‘pola’ as it is known in the ‘Kuttanad’ region of Kerala is a menace in the shallow water bodies, rice fields, and canals.  But nowadays the tribes are earning a decent income as the weeds are bought to feed the ducks and also for making handicrafts.

Monochoria hastata (L.) Solms_CEiBa_Vol3_Issue2

Mukia maderaspatana
(L.) M. Roem.
Family: Cucurbitaceae

The plant belongs to the family of melons, i.e., ‘Cucurbitaceae’. It is a native of India and is an annual. It can be successfully cultivated in the tropical region. It is called as ‘headache vine’ in many parts of the country. In India, it is mostly reported from Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The shoots, leaves and fruits of the plant are edible and eaten after cooking with spices. Due to its anti-diabetic and anti-hypertensive properties the plant is gaining importance among the health conscious diners. It is called as ‘Madras Pea pumpkin’ and the fruit has a combination of sweet and bitter taste. In the south of India, it is made to a paste (Thuvayal) with coconut after saluting with chillies and other spices. Other recipes are like, pieces of leaves mixed with rice, soaked with water and prepare Dosa like item. Similarly, leaves are fried with ghee or gingelly oil, followed by grinding the mass with roasted mixture of coriander leaves, curry leaves, pepper, red chili, dal and salt to make chutney like preparation. The tea prepared from leaf and bark has medicinal use in traditional therapy. The fruits are rich in vitamin C, E, A, phosphorous and minerals. Phytochemical analysis shows the presence of glycoside, flavonoids, phenols, alkaloids, saponin, carbohydrate and steroid in the plant.

Mukia maderaspatana (L.) M. Roem_CEiBa_Vol3_Issue2

Neptunia oleracea  
Family: Leguminosae

This plant is gaining popularity among the urban cities across the globe as ‘water mimosa’. It is a perennial nitrogen fixing legume with touch sensitive leaflets. The plant has got the name Neptunia from the God of seas –the Neptune, as it is aquatic in habitat.  It floats with the help of the aerenchymatous spongy stem. The branches are harvested when they reach around 30cm in length. The people of Manipur eat the stem after removing the spongy wrap around it. The main delicacies prepared using this plant includes the famous ‘Morokmetpa’, ‘Iromba’, ‘Kanghou’ and ‘Shingju’.  Morokmetpa, the chilly salad is made from leaves and fresh shoots. The clean small pieces of plant parts are mixed with boiled king chilli, fermented fish, raw onions and salt. For ‘Iromba’, sliced pieces boiled along with potatoes and petiole of Alocasia odora which is then prepared along with chillies and fermented fish. The dish is garnished with onions, corianders etc. For ‘Kanghou’, the plant parts are fried with other vegetables (brinjal, okra, potato, cabbage etc). ‘Shingju’ is made with papaya and ‘water mimosa’. Some other popular preparations are like, young stems, shoots and leaves of water mimosa are cooked and eaten as stir fries with soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, chillies, and garlic. It is also used in recipes with noodles, minced chicken or fried fish. The plant is rich in calcium, iron, vitamin A and C. ‘Pheophorbide a’ and its related compounds make this plant a promising antitumor agent. In addition to this, it shows high antioxidant activity too.

Neptunia oleracea Lour_CEiBa_Vol3_Issue2

Oenanthe javanica
(Blume) DC.
Family – Apiaceae

This is the only plant in the ‘Oenanthe‘genus that is not toxic. This plant is called as water dropwort in English, ‘seri’ in Japan and ‘Minari’ in Korea. The plant is cultivated for it’s edible shoots, fruits and roots in China, Japan and India. The plant can be seen in forest floors and in paddy fields upto 1500 m. In India, it’s mainly seen in the eastern states and also in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The plant is called as Komprek in the north-eastern state of Manipur and used to prepare their traditional cuisines, ‘enroba’ and ‘shingsu’. The young shoots are used for soups and salads. It tastes like carrot tops and celery which makes it a perfect additive in sumptuous soups. The food use of the plant is also reported from Assam.  Cuisines made of this plant are widely available in all the Japanese restaurants in Indian Cities. In addition to the excellent edible value it possesses, it also can be used as a fish feed to feed ‘koi fish’. Eugenol – a phyto chemical which can be used as an analgesic is present in the shoots of O. Javanica. The shoots and fruits are also rich in antioxidants which qualify the plant as an ideal candidate for health conscious urban platter. O.javanica has high iron content, followed by calcium, and magnesium, which are useful for patients with mineral deficiency problems.

Oenanthe javanica (Blume) DC._CEiBa_Vol3_Issue2